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Collette Calls: Runs Continue to Fall

Jason Collette

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

Yesterday, we learned that Rafael Furcal was going to miss the entire 2013 as he needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Furcal's best days are behind him, but in his prime from 2003 to 2006, he scored 100 or more runs four straight seasons peaking at 130 in 2003. The four times he has topped the century mark is better than the likes of Matt Holliday, Carl Crawford, Juan Pierre, Justin Upton, Adam Jones, and Jacoby Ellsbury to name a few during that same time span.

Most people have come to accept the fact that offense is down in baseball since the league opened its blind eyes to the PED issue in the sport. Home runs are down, and as a byproduct, so are runs. Since the strike ended in 1995 and we have had full seasons of baseball beginning with the 1996 season, notice the frequency at which players score at least 90 runs in a season:



Simply put, runs are tough to come by in fantasy circles these days. In AL Tout Wars, the record for the most runs in a single season of the 12-team league is 1,036, a figure Jason Grey achieved in 2002 while winning the first of his back-to-back titles earlier that decade. Last season's run champion in that same league, Mike Siano, led the league at 820 runs while the second place team scored 790 runs.

It is a different era of baseball for recent fantasy players, and we need to re-define what makes a premium run scorer. After all, the 100-run scoring player is going the way of the Dodo bird:



The high point in the post-strike era was in 1999 when 60 runners scored at least 100 runs that season. The reason for that? Quite simple - expansion era pitching as the league added the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Since then, with two spikes thrown in, things have continued to trend downhill to the point that 2012 saw an 80 percent reduction in the 1999 total as just 12 runners hit the century mark in runs scored.

The simplest way to get ahead of the competition is to draft multiple hitters from the top spots in the lineup. Last season, 22 teams saw the hitters that combined to occupy the leadoff role score at least 90 runs. Meanwhile, 21 teams saw their two-hole hitters do the same while 20 teams had the third spot in the lineup meet the benchmark. After that, the numbers begin to fall off and finally become extinct after the sixth-place hitters:



Finding runs in the bottom three lineup spots are very tough. In 2012, the ninth-place hitters for Toronto combined to score 82 runs which is an impressive total for the bottom of the lineup. That total bested the run outputs of six different American League teams from the clean-up spot in the lineup, including the Jays' own cleanup hitters. That said, what the bottom of the Toronto lineup pulled off last season should be considered the exception rather than the norm.

You have 14 hitting spots in a standard rotisserie roster format; your goal should be to fill at least nine of those spots with hitters from the first five spots of the projected batting orders and use the remaining five spots to fill out your roster regardless of batting order. If we evenly distribute the high run scorers from 2012 to each 2013 team, each team would only be able to have two such players with a few players left over for the rest. In reviewing the 2013 RotoWire projections for runs scored, we project 29 hitters to score at least 90 runs in 2013, which would match what the league did in 2012. Even if we lowered the threshold to 80 or more runs, that raises the available pool to 74 players which is just over six per team in a standard 12-team mixed format.

The change in the first-to-third move for pitchers may help raise stolen bases in 2013 as the backside runner can force the pitcher to make a decision between the lead runner or allowing the trail runner to move up into scoring position. This could also help the number of runs scored with a few more runners in scoring position than have been there in the past, but we won't know that until we see it in motion.

The extra steals are almost a given with the rule change, but steals will likely be affected more than raw run totals will be. When in doubt on draft day between two players, take the player projected to score more runs and the one that hits higher in the lineup as potent run scorers are a scarce commodity in a sport where offensive numbers continue a downward trend.